Neuro-law: A New World of Law Part 2

David Eagleman (1)

 

Photo: David Eagleman from The Initiative of Neuroscience and the Law at the Baylor College of Medicine who spoke with federal judges at the D.C. Circuit Court bi-annual conference in 2012 about the importance of a scientifically-guided legal system. He has done dozens of public lectures across the US and has been featured on CNN.

All around the world institutions and organisations are being created to harness learning from neuroscience in the world of law. The point of a legal system is to resolve conflict and help people live alongside each other on Planet Earth.  It doesn’t take a genius to see that the legal system is falling way short of its goal. So how do we start shifting the legal profession? We do it by going back to understanding how people function and what lies at the heart of conflict.

Extract from Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law:

Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law addresses how new discoveries in neuroscience should navigate the way we make laws, punish criminals, and develop rehabilitation.  The project brings together a unique collaboration of neurobiologists, legal scholars, ethicists, medical humanists, and policy makers, with the goal of running experiments that will result in modern, evidence-based policy.

Emerging questions at the interface of law and neuroscience challenge fundamental notions at the heart of our criminal justice system. Because brains develop as a complex interaction of genes and environment, can we really assume that people are ‘practical reasoners’, and deciding in exactly the same way? Is mass incarceration the most fruitful method to deal with juveniles, the mentally ill, and the drug-addicted? Can novel technologies such as real-time brain imaging be leveraged for new methods of rehabilitation? Can large scale data analysis give us insight into patterns of crime, recidivism, and the effect of legislation? 

Because most behavior is driven by brain networks we do not consciously control, the legal system will eventually be forced to shift its emphasis from retribution to a forward-looking analysis of future behavior. In the light of modern neuroscience, it no longer makes sense to ask “was it his fault, or his biology’s fault, or the fault of hisbackground?”, because these issues can never be disentangled.  Instead, the only sensible question can be “what do we do from here?” — in terms of customized sentencing, tailored rehabilition, and refined incentive structuring.

Lawyers all over the world are starting to see how learning from other disciplines, such as Neuroscience can have a profound effect on how we practise law. The Centre for Integrative Law’s mission is: To create a network of self-aware legal professionals, trained in global legal innovation, to articulate a new vision of law for South Africa.

If you’re interested in being a self-aware legal professional, trained in global legal innovation, come to hear the brilliant legal thought leader Pauline Tesler, from San Francisco, talking about Neuro-Literacy for Lawyers.

Cape Town: 10 April 2013

Johannesburg: 23 April 2013

Click here to register.

Neuro-law: A New World of Law Part 1

Triune brain artist impression

If you’re a lawyer (and chances are high if you’re reading this 😉 then you may well wonder what NEUROSCIENCE has to do with law or why you should care.

Here are some extracts explaining what’s going on around the world that you may not be aware of, understandably given the high demands of the legal profession and the pressure of billing by the hour.

Do you have time to read this? I’d argue you do for 2 reasons:

  1. You’re a lawyer and read really fast so you’ll soon decide if this is worth your while.
  2. Sometime you have to stop and sharpen the axe – even when it means you lose 15 minutes of billable tree-cutting time.

Extracts from Negotiation & Neuroscience by Kay Elliot.

Every day we are expected to make decisions that may have lasting effects: Do I negotiate with the customer that is obnoxious, demanding and unreasonable? Do I end a business relationship when the other party injures me financially? Do I negotiate with my life partner who has betrayed me about how much time I get to spend with our child? On a macro scale – should the USA negotiate with the Taliban when it is publicly dedicated to acts of terrorism against our country? Was Nelson Mandela right to negotiate with the apartheid regime of South Africa? Was Churchill wise to not negotiate with Hitler during World War II? When should we say no and fight? When should we say let’s negotiate? Is there a paradigm for making wise decisions in these difficult settings? Should we ever bargain with the “devil”?

Wise dispute resolution poses three challenges: avoiding predominately emotional decision making; taking the time to do a decision tree of alternatives; and assessing the ethical and moral issues involved in any situation. Neuroscientists and psychologists tell us that we all make these types of decisions using different parts of our brains: the intuitive, emotional brain and the rational, analytical brain. Other writers call these structures the old brain (the so-called snake brain) and the newer brain.

So take a look at the image again – thanks to Dr Paul Maclean – and see the 3 parts of the brain:

  1. Neo-cortex or new brain – cognitive section of the brain, the rational, figuring stuff out part
  2. Limbic system (in the middle)  – responsible for emotional attachments, also known as mammalian brain
  3. The Survival/ Reptilian/ Old brain – this is our flight or fight response that helps us act instantly when there isn’t time to weigh up pros and cons.

Some more from Kay Elliot:

The preference for distributive conflict styles prevents integration. In another context we see that narrowing the issues is beneficial for trying a law suit – fewer points to prove – but broadening the issues provides more scope for trades. The litigator in negotiating a settlement might only use the parts of the brain best suited for math problems and fail to utilize other parts of the brain better suited to creative tasks…

Neuroscience, while exciting, is still in its early stages of development. Neuroimaging holds the promise, however, of allowing unprecedented access to the mechanisms of the brain as it makes decisions. We are finally able to advance our understanding of just what is happening in the brain during negotiation and mediation, not by words but with pictures… 

There are many workshops being offered to mediators and negotiators in this and related fields. In the summer of 2010, for example, Pepperdine University School of Law presented Mindfulness for Conflict Resolvers: Lawyers, Mediators, Negotiators, Judges, Arbitrators & Managers, led by Len Riskin, Professor at the University of Florida College of Law, and Rachel Wohl, Director of the Maryland Supreme Court Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office. In June of that year a webinar on Contemplative Neuroscience with Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin was presented. On October 22, 2010, the University of California-Hastings College of Law sponsored a symposium on Emotions and Negotiation. Two leading authorities on non verbal communication, Paul Ekman and Clark Freshman, presented the latest research findings on using emotional information to negotiate more effectively…

In June, 2010, a course in Neuro-Collaboration was offered by Pauline Tesler (Attorney) and Thomas Lewis (MD and Neuroscientist) at Pepperdine. One observation from that course crystallizes the intersection of Neuroscience and Law:

“Collaborative lawyers undertake a task and if they are to do well at it, their beliefs and behaviors must support the ends they pursue and the processes they offer, must match up with what their clients and colleagues reasonably expect, and with what is known about how human beings actually do behave during conflict and conflict resolution processes. This does not mean that a collaborative lawyer must be a neuro-scientist or a psychotherapist or communications specialist. But collaborative lawyers do have a responsibility to make their work congruent with how they and their clients are biologically wired to think, feel, and decide, if they are to deliver what they promise.”

Lawyers all over the world are starting to see how learning from other disciplines, such as Neuroscience can have a profound effect on how we practise law.

Are you interested in innovation in law or do you aspire to the nostalgia of a law office lined with books and a mahogany desk with a jar of quill pens?

The Centre for Integrative Law’s mission is: To create a network of self-aware legal professionals, trained in global legal innovation, to articulate a new vision of law for South Africa.

If you’re interested in being a self-aware legal professional, trained in global legal innovation, come to hear the brilliant legal thought leader Pauline Tesler, from San Francisco, talking about Neuro-Literacy for Lawyers.

Cape Town: 10 April 2013

Johannesburg: 23 April 2013

Click here to register.

Part 2 of Neuro Law will follow.

Employee Recognition: Let us give thanks

you-are-more-than-awesome-you-re-amazing

Employee Recognition is only just beginning to, um, get the recognition it deserves.

It is particularly important for law firms as research on lawyer’s personality profiles (including MBTI research and brain imaging data and studies by Carol Gilligan) all show that lawyers are great at critical analysis but less so at the touchy-feely stuff, or in fact any of the feeling stuff. In plain English, it is far easier for a lawyer colleague or boss to point out the 3 things a junior did wrong than it i for them to pay a tribute to something someone did right. Because lawyers are trained and paid to criticize and see flaws and ways of improving things.  And because this way of viewing the world the default setting, most lawyers are not even aware of this.

It would also be helpful for lawyers to understand the 3 basic types of Employee recognition that I have just read about in some fascinating research entitled:  Employee Recognition: a Lynchpin Value for Cultural Transformation by Judith Mills and Joan Shafer. Here they are:

PAST Accomplishments i.e.: work done goals achieved contributions

PRESENT Acknowledgement of the importance of particular talents, current contributions or character

FUTURE Promise of potential: promotions, positions, projects

Which type do you think would be the hardest for lawyers? Yip, the middle one: Acknowledging WHO someone really is, their character does not come naturally to lawyers – it’s far too right brain.  Law firms tend to recognise employees more often than not, on accomplishment – while sometimes what people most need is recognition of who they are and what they bring to the workplace aside from the obvious accomplishments of winning a case or bringing in a new client.

A firm called Sullivan & Cromwell held a training session in 2006 for its partners on associate appreciation. This presentation encouraged partners to give associates feedback, to say “thank you” and “good job” and to return associates’ calls as quickly as you would a partner’s or clients’. The firm also arranged periodic associate lunches with the chairman of the firm and implemented a 360 degree review process – to give associates feedback from subordinates and peers as well as supervisors. In 2007 the firm’s attrition rate dropped from 30 plus percent to 22 percent. (The Happy Lawyer p.195)

Still not convinced?

Here’s another interesting piece of research mentioned by Mills and Shafer:

Employee Recognition affects the bottom line. In their book “The Carrot Principle”, Gostick and Elton demonstrate this. In response to the question ‘My organisation recognises excellence’, the results show that organisations that scored in the lower fourth quartile had an average return on equity (ROE) of 2.4%, whereas those that scored in the top fourth had an average ROE of 8.7%. In other words, companies that most effectively recognise excellence enjoy a return that is more than triple the return of those that are least effective.”

How people are lead and managed is important. People who report the highest morale at work, 94.4% agree that their managers are effective at recognition. In contrast, 56% of employees who report low morale give their manager a failing grade on recognition and only 2.4% of people who have low morale say they have a boss who is great at recognition.

Two final pieces of advice that I’ve gleaned from Mills & Shafer

The people delivering the recognition need to:

Match what and how they deliver recognition to what is meaningful to the employee. To do this they need to strengthen their powers of observation, feedback systems and articulation skills.

And importantly:

When acknowledgement is needed, it has a more powerful punch if it is delivered by someone high up in the organisation.

For recognition to be effective, the recipient needs to:

  • Trust that the recognition is true.
  • Respect the source of the recognition.
  • Believe that there is no hidden motive behind the appreciation.

People are not aware of all the gifts they have to offer. It is a transformative act to tell people how they have affected others’ lives. This not only increases their self-awareness, but empowers them to express themselves more freely to others. It reduces the fear belief of ‘Am I good enough’? Do not assume that other people know how effective, good or talented they are.

CVA data (CULTURAL VALUE ASSESSMENTS) are a powerful tool for gathering data on the issue of employee recognition.

An analysis of 106 CVA’s show that it is not just lower level employees that want to be recognised but people at all levels “including the CEO, senior leadership, middle management, and staff. People at the top have just as strong a need to be appreciated as staff, possibly because it can be lonely at the top. This is evidenced by the response senior leaders demonstrate during Leadership Values Assessment (LVA) debriefs where their strengths and contributions are acknowledged by their colleagues. They are almost always touched and surprised by how highly regarded they are and the extent and richness of their strengths. This feedback from others enhances their confidence and belief about themselves in all they have to offer.”

Mills & Shafer have also developed a great model showing 7 levels of Employee Recognition, that aligns with the 7 Levels of Organisational Consciousness.

I am SO excited to be taking this cutting edge work being done in corporates around the world, and bringing it to my niche market of South African law firms. The Barrett Cultural Transformation Tools mentioned here – the CVA and LVA – are such brilliantly simple yet powerful ways to deepen an organisation’s understanding of dynamics which have a huge effect on the firm, but aren’t readily visible.

I am finalising the LEARNS product: (Lawyer Engagement & Recognition Nexus Survey) designed specifically to assist law firms in understanding the nexus, or connection between:

  • Employee recognition patterns
  • Employee engagement patterns
  • Attrition rates
  • Firm profitablity

It is early days but the Centre for Integrative Law gets closer every day to its vision To be South Africa’s leading  consultancy for emergent thinking in integrative ways to practise and teach law.

Click here for more details.

“Don’t leave me now, Don’t say it’s the end of the road”

DSC00236

Authenticity implies a way of being in the world wherein you remain true to the spirit of who you are at the soul level.  Sadly, growing numbers of lawyers globally leave the profession early because they are unable to align their professional and personal lives. This is particularly true for women who, in addition to the challenges lawyers face generally, find themselves in environments where only a male way of operating is valued. There are thousands of studies to indicate that men and women process information differently, solve problems differently and build relationships differently. However, law firms pay little, if any, attention to this and so to most women lawyers remain oblivious to what might be causing the growing sense of unease and dissatisfaction at their chosen career path.  But while attention needs to be paid to this issue, it’s not just women who are struggling.  Male lawyers are also wondering, as their every waking hour is spent engaged in fighting on behalf of clients or fighting their way to a partnership, if this is really what they want from their lives.

Many lawyers who may have begun their studies viewing law as a powerful tool for justice, equality and societal change become disheartened after a few years in practice.  A  lot  of  people  who  go  into  law  school  have  a  strong  sense  of  right  and wrong  and  a  belief  in  moral  truths.  Those  values  are  destroyed  in  law school,  where students  are taught  that  there  is  no  right  and  no wrong  and where  such  idealistic,  big-picture  concepts  get  usurped.  The way  the majority of students deal with this is to  become cynical. (See Ralph Nader  & Wesley J. Smith, No  Contest: Corporate  Lawyers  and  the Perversion of Justice in America 334  (1996).

Most people choose their careers by focusing on what profession best allows them to satisfy their ego needs. The term “ego” is not used in a negative sense here, it simply refers to the basic human needs such as survival (a safe secure environment for the self), relationships (the need for belonging and feeling loved and accepted by those with whom you interact daily) and self esteem (feeling good about yourself and having pride in your performance).  Once these ego needs are satisfied individuals then shift to the transformation level which is about embracing their individuality to become fully actualized and authentic. After that, one moves to internal cohesion which is where people start to find meaning for their lives by uncovering their purpose and aligning fully with who they are.

Usually it’s only after 10 or 20 years that people realise that the profession you chose in your youth is not the one that aligns with your passion.

But I don’t believe that we are called to the legal profession by accident and I don’t believe if you find yourself disillusioned that the only way you can align with your passion is to leave the legal profession.  And I was so delighted to engage in deep dialogue with 40 attorneys, advocates, prosecutors and mediators in September 2012 and hear them talk about their life purpose. Many of them had found ways to move to the transformation level (embracing their individuality) but remain in the legal profession. And I was surprised to see how many had moved to the internal cohesion level  – finding their life purpose and aligning fully with who they are. (Often this can be evidenced by the way people talk about what they do – the light that shines in their eyes. Sometimes you can sense they become almost tearful with the strength of their passion. Richard Barrett taught me this is their soul communicating.) Perhaps I should not have been that surprised as these were all legal professionals who had given up a day’s work to hear about Integrative Law in South Africa and connect with Kim Wright, author of Lawyers as Peacemakers. In other words, this was a group of lawyers already invested in personal transformation.

For some of them, aligning with who they really are had meant training in mediation, for others, finding a way to connect more deeply with things that gave their life meaning for example, one attorney is helping people with terminal illnesses, another is coaching people who find themselves in litigation because she knows that litigation is often merely an outward manifestation of underlying inner conflict.    These stories were moving and each indicated the struggle the individual had gone through to align fully with their purpose in an often unforgiving profession.

I have made it my mission for the next few years to help lawyers uncover their purpose and find ways to live to their full potential while continuing to practise law, perhaps in a different way, shape or form.  Alongside this, I’m hoping to revolutionize legal education in South Africa! Ambitious? Maybe I am, but with the contacts I have made in the last 12 months – conscious, committed lawyers (and coaches, and organisational development experts and lateral thinking experts) all over the globe who have offered me their time, assistance and intellectual property to fulfil this mission, I know I don’t have to be an expert – if I apply my mind to a problem, be it an individual’s struggle or an organisational one, I can design a powerful solution with this network at my fingertips.

I am so excited to be developing:

  • Coaching programmes for lawyers (with my new inspiring and energetic coaching partner, an expert in helping people develop resilience)
  • Mentoring programmes for lawyers
  •  Gender workshops for lawyers  – some in conjunction with a psychotherapist doing a PHD in Corporate Gender Relations (note: I wrote about Mary Ovenstone in June last year here, setting my intention that one day when the time was right, we’d collaborate.  And now we are. Love it when a plan comes together.)
  • Depth Leadership for Lawyers (with an expert in Deep Facilitation)
  • De  Bono lateral thinking workshops (with top SA De Bono expert)
  • The latest in Neuro-literacy Training for Lawyers (in April, with expert Pauline Tesler from San Francisco. This workshop is accredited by the ABA. I pray one day the LSSA will accredit such courses here in South Africa.)

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

To know more, feel free to contact me using the contact tabs on this blog. To ensure  you don’t miss news of trainings, please sign up on www.cil.org.za I promise you won’t get bombarded with information. In fact you’ll be lucky to get monthly updates at this rate. But seriously, some of the experts will only be visiting South Africa once so you will need to move fast to be guaranteed cutting edge training.  I look forward to meeting 1000’s more committed, conscious lawyers in the months to come.

I wanna be like you hoo hoo…I wanna walk like you

Baloo and Mowgli

 

“Oh, oobee doo

I wanna be like you

I wanna walk like you

Talk like you, too

You’ll see it’s true”  From the Jungle Book: I wanna Be Like You

But is it true? 

“One of the largest national studies on associate attrition found that the availability or lack of mentoring and feedback frequently affected associates’ decision to stay with their firm or to leave”.  (US Study – NALP Foundation for Research and Education. Keeping the Keepers: Strategies for Associate Retention in a time of Attrition, 1998)

The buzzword in many South African law firms right now is “mentoring programme”. These programmes are being introduced to combat a number of issues facing law firms in today’s climate:

  • High attorney turn-over rates
  • Lack of collegial atmosphere – (workplace cultures focused solely on profit and pleasing clients don’t build staff relationships)
  • Young attorneys ill-equipped to withstand the pressures of the legal profession as their university training focused on academic training only

Firms are realising that “Associate happiness is also likely to be increased if you encourage development of each lawyer’s specific strengths and skill sets”. (from The Happy Lawyer, Nancy Levit and Douglas O Linder). But many of the firms are not entirely sure how to do this and are placing the success or failure of such programmes at the door of already over-burdened HR managers.

If you are implementing or designing a mentoring programme in a law firm right now, here are 5 things to bear in mind,  based on global research.

  1. Most lawyers don’t naturally make good mentors. Mentoring is a different skill to lawyering. The first example: lawyers don’t like to listen! They are trained to give advice! The very opposite is required in a mentor who needs to listen and help the mentee find their own solution.  It’s likely that most young associates if given the choice will choose the same partner or group of partners as mentors.  However, mentoring skills can be taught, to an extent, if mentors are willing to put in the time necessary to learn them and are incentivised to do so.*
  2.  Forward thinking firms are including in their compensation plans “an upward evaluation of partners by associates in categories of supervision availability, respect for associate work-load…openness to questions,…career guidance”. In other words, partners who are good mentors and managers are rewarded.
  3. Most young attorneys have not been encouraged to consider their vision for their careers or to assess what areas of law best match their personality, values and skills. If they’re academically strong, they end up in large firms by default, based on a fairly swift hiring process before they’ve graduated. The complex process of helping someone with personal discovery and insights, learning what one’s values are and being familiar with one’s strengths, is not really part of the senior attorney’s job description.  Bring in professionals.
  4. Low levels of trust can be an issue: for example, will a senior partner be willing to hold an honest conversation with a junior about the downsides of her job, if the conversation might get back to her superiors and affect her own career trajectory?
  5. Generational differences: “Lawyers from Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979) and Generation Y (born between 1980 to 2000) often work in law firms where the senior partners are Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964) – The Happy Lawyer.  These are not arbitrary distinctions but crucial to understanding each other. Some examples:  Boomers want the corner office, Gen X’ers see freedom as the ultimate reward, while Gen Y’ers seek work that is meaningful to them. Gen X’ers want to work smarter rather than harder and they tend to like flexibility. Gen Y’ers want to be judged on their productivity and the quality of their work, not their seniority. 

The best mentoring programme is one that recognises the limitations of its attorneys as mentors, and supplements associate training with professional coaching.

A professional coach can design a far-reaching programme that can be transformational for both the mentors and mentees. In the next few posts I will lay out some of what a Professionally Designed Law Firm Mentorship Programme might contain.

 

… no woman is really an insider

“… no woman is really an insider in the institutions fathered by masculine consciousness.” Adrienne Rich

DSC00333

This post is actually a comment I made regarding Pierre de Vos’  post on Constitutionally Speaking which you can read here. These are some extracts:

Currently, only two of the eleven judges on the Constitutional Court are women. For a while there were three women on the Court, but in our patriarchal society it is no surprise that this state of affairs did not last.

For the latest appointment the JSC shortlisted five candidates for interviews – all five of them male.

Judges Selby Baqwa; Lebotsang Bosielo; and Brian Spilg are all competent lawyers, but none of these judges have (as far as I can tell) demonstrated any progressive streak or deep insight into the ways in which our legal culture could and should be transformed. Advocates Jeremy Gauntlett and Mbuyiseli Madlanga are both good advocates, but I suspect they suffer from the same deficit than the nominated judges: a lack of legal imagination and daring and a lack of enthusiasm for the transformation of the legal system.

how many of the shortlisted candidates have a deep commitment to feminism and insight into the manner in which seemingly neutral legal rules often promote the interests of men (and male domination) in our society?

I have been fascinated by the studies from Harvard and other well-recognised journals and publications that show conclusively that companies with equal numbers of women on the board, perform better. It’s not that women are better than men – simply that by having balanced boards the company is able to harness different ways of thinking about the world; different approaches to problem solving – it’s like doubling your ability to see the issues at hand. The same arguments should be made for the bench of the Constitutional Court and all courts.

However, in the legal profession, new research is providing evidence that women lawyers are forced early on to abandon their female way of viewing the world and the feminine approaches to problem solving. How? Because the law school curriculum and law firms themselves and the Bar are so deeply mired in a patriarchal mindset that the only way women succeed and climb the ranks in these places is to show that they can adopt a male mindset. This is highly detrimental to the profession because to put it bluntly it means there is no harnessing of this “other” perspective if all the women who make it are thinking and behaving exactly like men.

This is not to say that we don’t need women on the bench! But I think it’s important to add to the debate around how many women are on the bench this issue:   our failure to allow women lawyers to bring their fullest contribution to the profession. The way we educate lawyers actively discourages emotions. As mentioned above, there is now research that shows that these areas of the lawyers’ brain are undeveloped as a result! In other words – there is physical evidence which gives deeper understanding as to why lawyers are referred to as “sharks”.

The CIL is bringing an expert in neuro-literacy for lawyers (accredited by the American Bar Association) to SA in April.  Her name is Pauline Tesler, she’s the founder of the Integrative Law Institute in San Francisco and I’ve written about her here.

I would love to set up a platform for a panel discussion around gender and law while Pauline is in South Africa in April 2013. … I’ll send that out into the Universe and see what comes back.   In this realm I am also working with an Executive Coach specialising in Gender issues, on a programme for law firms, particularly around assisting women lawyers to focus on retaining their ability to think like women but express themselves in ways that men can understand. This is critical for them to succeed in male dominated work places.

Watch this space! Mail me using the contact tab on this blog if this interests you and you’d like to know more.

3 Models of Consciousness

At present, the frameworks most influencing my thinking on consciousness are:

  • Richard Barrett’s 7 levels of consciousness framework
  • Doctor David Hawkin’s Map of Consciousness which is contained in his book “Power v Force”.
  • Spiral Dynamics, a model developed by Dr Don Beck and Chris Cowan in the 1990’s, based on the work of the late Professor Clare W Graves.

Richard Barrett’s 7 levels of consciousness framework

Richard Barrett (FRSA) is an author, speaker and social commentator on the evolution of human values in business and society. He is the Founder and Chairman of the Barrett Values Centre and an internationally recognized thought leader on values, culture, leadership and consciousness. Richard was a successful engineer for many years and studied Psychology, Spirituality, Physics, and Personal Transformation in his spare time. Only much later in his life did he become a consultant in organisational levels of consciousness and achieve international recognition for this work.  He now does a lot of work on country’s levels of consciousness and global levels of consciousness.

The Barrett Values Centre website has links to all Barrett’s thinking and models.  This is an extract below, which you can read in full here:

Every human being on the planet evolves and grows in consciousness in seven well‐ defined stages. Each stage focuses on a particular existential need that is common to the human condition. These seven existential needs are the principal motivating forces in all human affairs.  The level of growth and development of an individual depends on their ability to satisfy their needs.  

 7-Levels-Personal-Consciousness

The first three levels of consciousness focus on our personal self‐interest—satisfying our physiological need for security and safety, our emotional need for love and belonging, and our need to feel good about ourselves through the development of a sense of pride in who we are, and a positive sense of self‐esteem. Abraham Maslow referred to these as “deficiency” needs. We feel no sense of lasting satisfaction from being able to meet these needs, but we feel a sense of anxiety if these needs are not met.  When these needs are paramount in our lives, we are conditioned by the expectations of those around us—by our social environment (the family and the culture we were brought up in). We align, and are loyal to the groups with which we identify.

 The focus of the fourth level of consciousness is on transformation—learning how to manage, master or release the subconscious, fear‐based beliefs that keep us anchored in the lower levels of consciousness.  During this stage of our development, we establish a sense of our own personal authority, and our own voice. We are able to let go of our need to identify with our social environment because we have learned how to master our deficiency needs. We now choose to live by the values and beliefs that resonate deeply with who we are. We begin the process of self‐actualisation by focusing on our individuation.  

The upper three levels of consciousness focus on our need to find meaning and purpose in our existence; actualising that meaning by making a difference in the world, and leading a life of self‐less service.  Abraham Maslow referred to these as “growth” needs. When these needs are fulfilled they do not go away. They engender deeper levels of motivation and commitment. During this stage of our development, we increasingly develop the capacity to stand back and reflect on the strengths and limitations of our own ideology. We learn how to become our own self witness, and develop an inner compass that intuitively guides us into making life affirming decisions.    Individuals that focus exclusively on the satisfaction of the lower needs, tend to live self‐centred, shallow lives. They are significantly influenced by the anxieties and fears they hold about satisfying their deficiency needs.   Individuals that focus exclusively on the satisfaction of the higher needs tend to lack the skills necessary to remain grounded and operate effectively in the physical world. They can be ineffectual and impractical when it comes to taking care of their basic needs.  

The most successful individuals are those who balanced both their “deficiency” needs and their “growth” needs. They operate from Full Spectrum Consciousness. They are trusting of others, are able to manage complexity, and can respond or rapidly adapt to all situations.

Doctor David Hawkin’s Map of Consciousness

IMAGE REMOVED – (after receiving the most aggressive legal request of my life!  However it does re-affirm the dire need for Conscious Contracts and all training in the humanizing the profession work which falls under Integrative Law. I have a dream that somehow I will be able to work with the Institute for Spiritual Research, Inc. dba Veritas Publishing, to create a new letter to send people in situations like this. Let us set this intention) 

Hawkins is far more “alternative” than Richard Barrett and there is much controversy surrounding his work. He died recently (2012) having gained a cult-like following around the world. Though many people have attacked his credentials on a scientific basis, Hawkins did achieve considerable mainstream recognition as you can see on his publisher’s site which gives these biographical details:

Sir David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. is a nationally renowned psychiatrist, physician, researcher, spiritual teacher and lecturer. The uniqueness of his contribution to humanity comes from the advanced state of spiritual awareness known as ” Enlightenment,” “Self–Realization,” and “Unio Mystica.”Rarely, if ever, has this spiritual state occurred in the life of an accomplished scientist and physician. Therefore, Dr. Hawkins is uniquely qualified to present a spiritual path that is scientifically compelling to modern society.

Founding Director of the Institute for Spiritual Research, Inc. (1983) and Founder of the Path of Devotional Nonduality (2003), Dr. Hawkins has lectured widely at such places as Westminster Abbey; Oxford Forum; Universities of Notre Dame, Michigan, Argentina, Fordham and Harvard; University of California (SF) Medical School; Institute of Noetic Sciences; and Agape Spiritual Center (Los Angeles). In addition, he has been an advisor to Catholic, Protestant, and Buddhist monasteries. He has conferred with foreign governments on international diplomacy and has been instrumental in resolving long–standing conflicts that were major threats to world peace.

 Dr. Hawkins entered the field of medicine to alleviate human pain and distress, and his work as a physician was pioneering. As Medical Director of the North Nassau Mental Health Center (1956–1980) and Director of Research at Brunswick Hospital (1968–1979) on Long Island, his clinic was the largest practice in the United States, including a suite of twenty–five offices, two thousand outpatients, and several research laboratories. In 1973, he co–authored the ground–breaking work, Orthomolecular Psychiatry with Nobel Laureate chemist Linus Pauling,initiating a new field within psychiatry.

Despite the fact that Hawkins’ work has attracted much criticism (eg: “Power Vs. Force is filled with attempts to be scientific that wind up worthy of ridicule rather than respect”) I believe, along with thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, that he made a significant contribution to the study of human consciousness.

According to Hawkins all people live at vastly different levels of consciousness, which he has mapped on a logarithmic scale of 1-1000. Any person, concept, thought or object that calibrates at 200 (The level of Integrity) or above is positive (“power”); anything below 200 is negative (“force”).

Hawkins map can be used in a variety of ways, some of them are more esoteric than others (I recently did basic training in how to use these methods to test for allergies and for underlying beliefs that people hold which hold them back in life. Fascinating! But I’ll stick to basics here. )

Because I plan to work with Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness in the legal profession and for the purposes of personal development, I am going to stick to its use as a tool for raising one’s own consciousness.

I found a good basic explanation of Hawkin’s map on Steve Pavlina’s blog:

Here is what Steve Pavlina says:

In the book Power vs. Force by David R. Hawkins, there’s a hierarchy of levels of human consciousness. It’s an interesting paradigm. If you read the book, it’s also fairly easy to figure out where you fall on this hierarchy based on your current life situation.

From low to high, the levels of consciousness are: shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, enlightenment.

While we can pop in and out of different levels at various times, usually there’s a predominant “normal” state for us. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re at least at the level of courage because if you were at a lower level, you’d likely have no conscious interest in personal growth.

I think you’ll find this model worthy of reflection. Not only people but also objects, events, and whole societies can be ranked at these levels. Within your own life, you’ll see that some parts of your life are at different levels than others, but you should be able to identify your current overall level. You might be at the level of neutrality overall but still be addicted to smoking (level of desire). The lower levels you find within yourself will serve as a drag that holds the rest of you back. But you’ll also find higher levels in your life. You may be at the level of acceptance and read a book at the level of reason and feel really inspired. Think about the strongest influences in your life right now. Which ones raise your consciousness? Which ones lower it?

Spiral Dynamics, a model developed by Dr Don Beck

integralinsights spiral dynamics

Spiral Dynamics is often presented in a very complex way. I found a wonderfully simple and eloquent explanation by Aubyn Howard on her website which I hope to use in the future!

Here is what Aubyn says about Spiral Dynamics:

The theory argues that it is possible to identity a series of worldviews that together describe the essentially different ways in which people see and engage with the world. The emergence of these codes or worldviews in the development of an individual, the maturation of a organisation or the evolution of a society can be seen to follow a clear sequential pattern, although the way in which this takes place in practice is unique to each person, group or society. This approach suggest that these worldviews are activated within us according to our history, core personality and the life conditions and challenges we are facing. It does not say that we go through stages of development in a discreet, linear fashion, progressing neatly from one stage to another, but that each of these worldviews can be more or less activated in each of us at any one time. Therefore each of us has a unique value systems profile that tells our unique story.

The general principles of the evolution of these value systems include:

  • a progression from less complex to more complex and sophisticated expressions
  • a spiral alternation between individualistic and collectivist worldviews, between expressing self and sacrificing self
  • that each value system needs to become activated within an individual at some basic level (even if not very apparent) before subsequent more complex systems are able to emerge

Understanding these different value systems, the sequence and pattern in which they emerge, is key to a number of challenges and issues including:

  • facilitating the development of individuals, groups, organisations and communities
  • understanding and resolving conflict (within a personality, a group, a society or globally)
  • knowing what motivates people and what language to use to engage them
  • changing deeply embedded mindsets, attitudes and behaviours

An understanding of these different worldviews or value systems and how they work, gives you an essential insight into the underlying patterns that shape the way the world is changing today. Personally, it helps me make sense of almost everything that I see going on, not just with individuals and groups within organisations, but also at a societal, global and historical level. In organisational work it complements the use of horizontal systems for profiling personality (such as Myers-Briggs, Belbin, Strengthsfinder, Insights, etc).

Unfortunately the way in which the Spiral Dynamics approach has been packaged and presented doesn’t always make it easily understood and accepted by organisational leaders and practitioners, so I have been working away over the years at making it more accessible and developing relevant diagnostic tools for use in organisational work, which I present in my courses or workshops.

Below is another Spiral Dynamics map which shows organisational culture. Have a look at it and try and determine at which level your law firm is operating?

spiral dynamics levels explanations

Why is any of this stuff useful to lawyers?

Many lawyers globally are sensing greater and greater levels of dissatisfaction with their profession. Developing an understanding of your personal values using Richard Barrett’s 7 Levels of Personal Consciousness can help you start to look at what is important to you and how to align who you are with the work you do.

I believe lawyers are drawn to the profession for a reason and that it is tragic when so many lawyers with so much to give leave law as a result of feeling utter disconnection between their personal and professional lives. My intention is to help lawyers find a way to practise law, an organisation in which to practise law and/ or a niche area of law that allows them to live an authentic and fulfilling life.

If you use the Spiral Dynamics model and determine you are probably at the “Green” level where relationships are prioritized and building a community is very important to you, you will struggle if you’re in a law firm at the “Blue” level which is focused on the task and not the person and conformity is the name of the game. Should you find yourself in a “Red” level law firm where there are high levels of internal competition, you may well find yourself suffering burn out. As I recently discovered, one large South African law firm has an arrangement with a local mental health facility so that their lawyers can regularly be accommodated there when they suffer breakdowns.

Discussions with women lawyers have shown me that those who choose to have children often find that they change with motherhood. This makes sense – one’s values and priorities should change when you bring a new life into the world. Many of these mothers find they are unable to practise law in the way they did before not because they are sleep deprived or have lost brain cells (as their male colleagues  may try to argue!) but because they no longer view the world in the same way. Relationships often become more important than achievement at this stage which is a natural progression. Such a lawyer may find themselves drawn to the field of mediation rather than litigation or wanting to have fewer but more meaningful relationships with clients.  Law firms operating at higher levels of consciousness can make space for these developments which can actually hugely enhance the firm’s potential if they can harness the new skills on offer.

Lawyers who deepen their understanding of worldviews will also find it helps all their interactions with clients. Using Barrett’s model, some lawyers actually ask their clients to list their values so that the lawyer has a deeper understanding of what it is the client really seeks through litigation or through a business contract. Using Spiral Dynamics may help a lawyer understand why his/ her client sees the world in the way he does. Where there is a major difference in levels of consciousness between one side to a contract and the other, it could explain why negotiation is not possible.

 Why is this useful to law firms?

Most law firms are stuck in the Blue to Orange levels and only those at the cutting edge are moving towards Yellow where they are embracing personal development. Lawyers tend to be very Orange  – it’s all about achievement, success and results.

But the world is changing and law firms which are still operating on the same levels of awareness as law firms of 100 years ago are losing market share. Increasingly there are more women studying law, at least South African statistics back this up. Therefore law firms that are not adapting their structures and worldviews are finding it difficult to attract and retain women lawyers.  Law firms have high staff turnover rates and high levels of employee disengagement which cost them millions without many of them being aware of this.  Firms operating at higher levels of consciousness are surveying their employee needs and adapting work policies, structures, billing policies and working hours accordingly. They realise that by meeting their employees’ needs, the firm will do better. The industrial age model where you work people as hard as you, in return for undying loyalty, a greater share of firm profits and a gold pen upon retirement simply doesn’t hold sway anymore. The world has changed. People are motivated by things other than financial gain as books like Daniel Pink’s “Drive” show.

Focusing only on power – growing a firm as big as possible so that the firm website can claim it is the biggest firm in the country or the world with offices in places no one has heard of – this is a very “Red” world view. As the collapse of the massive Dewey-Leboeuf law firm showed us in 2012, bigger is not necessarily better. Reports show that senior partners of this firm in the US and the UK were not even on speaking terms as the firm headed to its demise.

The work of Richard Barrett, David Hawkins and Don Beck all point towards a changing world order. In business there is the rise of a new movement called “Conscious Capitalism” which is underpinned by all these frameworks mentioned here. (People thinking and working at this level collaborate frequently and share materials  – they are not obsessed with copyright and ownership. Don Beck has worked alongside Richard Barrett.  The founder of Conscious Capitalism, Raj Sisodia, author of “Firms of Endearment” was a guest speaker at the Barrett Values Centre conference in Cape Town 2012. Gita Bellin, who spoke at this conference too, also referenced Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness. )

Law firms who wish to survive the global changes need to become more conscious of their lawyer’s worldviews and values, their clients’ worldviews and values and the firm’s own worldview and values.

Why is this useful to the legal profession in general?

Increasingly there is evidence that shows clients who win their cases are not actually any happier afterwards.  In depth studies of thousands of cases are showing that what most clients want from their day in court is two fold:

  • a chance to tell their story to be heard
  • to be respected and have their feelings validated

And yet the system is not designed with this in mind and in fact actively thwarts the fulfilment of these goals. Firstly, by giving the lawyers all the power (a friend recounts how her lawyer actually said to her “this is MY case now, not yours”) and secondly by actively discouraging any emotional responses to proceedings, by clients, lawyers, judges or juries. This negates the basic understanding that the reason most people end up needing lawyers is emotional rather than factual. Even where disputes are largely factual, they are always muddled up with the parties’ stories about the events, their interpretation of the events and their particular worldviews which determine the extent to which believe it necessary to get retribution or ensure punishment for the guilty or receive compensation for their loss, whether financial or emotional.

“Consciousness has changed in the past, and it can change again in the future. A positive change is urgent and crucial. How could people shift their values, perceptions, and behaviours unless they evolve their consciousness? How could they come up with the will to pull together to confront the threats they face in common and elect political leaders who support projects on cooperation and solidarity? Without a more evolved consciousness the motivation for change would have to await the coming of crises and catastrophes – and if these have already reached the point of no return, it will be too late. ” Worldshift 2012, Ervin Laszlo

When I look around I see so many incredible tools available at the tips of our fingers thanks to the internet. Yet we are so focused and consumed by what is immediately in front of us – the need to do more, faster, that we are not using these tools to advance ourselves and find solutions to global problems.

It is my intention to share some of these tools with those to whom they may be of use, for the greater good of the legal profession globally, and ultimately humanity.   For better or for worse, we have created a legal system to help us co-exist peacefully but the systems are broken. They need to evolve, (including all those who work in these systems)  so that these systems can efficiently and effectively serve humanity’s needs to live in greater harmony. This is only possible through gaining greater consciousness of ourselves and our world.

The Conscious Lawyer

DSC00806

“Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans, and the catastrophe for which the world is headed — be it ecological, social, demographic, or a general breakdown of civilization — will be unavoidable.”

–   Vaclav Havel, playwright, activist, Czech independence leader, Czechpresident, and what the New York Times obituary called “a global ambassador of conscience”.

World conditions indicate we now need individuals, (in my case the focus is on lawyers), who have “high ethical standards and moral integrity, who dedicate themselves to developing new ways of thinking and acting to help resolve the social, political, economic and ecological challenges of the twenty first century” (Worldshift 2012, Making Green Business, New Politics And Higher Consciousness Work Together” Ervin Laszlo).

The purpose of my work is to raise consciousness in the legal profession. This concept, while crystal clear to some people, who go on to ask how I do this, is completely impenetrable to others who look at me quizzically and ask “what consciousness?” To me it’s quite amazing that something that has been written about since people could first write (ancient Sanskrit texts) is still relatively unknown in large tracts of the Western world.  But whether we know about consciousness or not, even a rudimentary understanding of global changes should be sufficient to show us that unless we shift our consciousness, there will be a general breakdown of civilization.

According to the ever-useful Wikipedia, Consciousness is the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined as:

subjectivityawarenesssentience, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind.”

One of the issues in trying to define “consciousness” is that each field of study defines it in a different way. So philosophers go into long-winded explanations about how anyone can ever really know anything (if we use our senses, these could be faulty – for example the discovery of colour blindness showed us that cannot know if we all see the colour red the same way).

Psychologists and neuro-scientists look at different parts of the brain and how and where information is stored for example often we think we don’t know something but later we recall it, so that information must have been there all along.

“In medicine, consciousness is assessed by observing a patient’s arousal and responsiveness, and can be seen as a continuum of states ranging from full alertness and comprehension, through disorientation, delirium, loss of meaningful communication, and finally loss of movement in response to painful stimuli.”

When I talk about consciousness I’m generally referring to our awareness, what we are able to know, sense, feel, and intuit on all levels: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.

How does this relate to lawyers?

Take a moment to imagine this: a lawyer sits in his office surrounding by files and law books. His level of consciousness is informed by his education, the firm he is working in, the colleagues he associates with daily, the materials available to him and his interactions with his clients – in other words the things that comprise “his world”.

What I propose is a deepening of consciousness that is two fold:

  1. the inward journey: Helping lawyers develop a greater understanding of themselves, their own values and worldviews and how this affects their thinking, their ability to help their clients intellectually, emotionally, and perhaps even spiritually (to help a client find forgiveness after suffering a deeply painful wrong is surely spiritual assistance?) This type of personal development work helps lawyers connect with why they were drawn to the profession of law in the first place and can help the lawyer find alignment between their personal and professional lives. It can also help the lawyer uncover a purpose or mission far more fulfilling than that of “providing for the family” or simple material gain.
  2. The outward or upward journey: Helping lawyers shift their perspective from

 the pile of files on the desk in front of them:

to their law firm’s level of organisational consciousness and values and the effect this has on the individual lawyer and his clients

to the legal profession generally in the country, its general orientation and world view and how the individual lawyer can function within this system (understanding systems thinking is helpful here)

To the shifts taking place globally – that there is a growing realisation that the true interests of people include physical survival, stable relationships in society, a meaningful cultural and social identity and remunerated and socially useful work. 

Lawyers who are able to shift their perspective from the immediate (their client files needing urgent attention) to a much higher “helicopter” view of their role in society as one of healing conflict and contributing to stable relationships or helping create a judicial system dedicated to social and economic justice – these are the lawyers the world needs now.

At present, the frameworks most influencing my thinking on consciousness are:

  • Richard Barrett’s 7 levels of consciousness framework
  • Doctor David Hawkin’s Map of Consciousness which is contained in his book “Power v Force”.
  • Spiral Dynamics, a model developed by Dr Don Beck and Chris Cowan in the 1990’s, based on the work of the late Professor Clare W Graves.

These are all very weighty models about which many books have been written by hundreds of people taking the ideas further and in some cases criticising them. To try and capture such complex frameworks in brief is daunting and I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel so I will try to find the simplest explanations online of each of these frameworks and models, and present them in the next post.

I had a dream

I had a dream:  in February 2012  to start a centre for conscious lawyers.

What happened:  7 months later I launched the Centre for Integrative Law.

I had a dream I could one day meet Kim Wright, author of ABA best-seller Lawyers as Peacemakers. I emailed  Kim on 7 June 2012.

What happened:  Kim flew to Cape Town 3 months later to help me launch the Centre for Integrative Law and co host South Africa’s 1st Integrative Law Conference on 27 September 2012.

Here’s part of my first email to Kim:

Dear Kim

Please let me know if you’d be willing to collaborate with me, all the way out here in South Africa. I’m struggling to get this “thing” to take form – but I can see that the right sort of people, in fact a powerful network of influential people are starting to come into my sphere.

 I can’t wait to read your book – is it available on Kindle? I might try that although I must say I still like to hold an actual book in my hands!  I would love to connect with you. 

This is me and Kim, tired but glowing after hosting our conference.

I had a dream I could meet someone who saw the changes needed in the legal profession like I do.

What happened: I found Kim online and a a few weeks later, I discovered Pauline Tesler, Director of the Integrative Law Institute in San Francisco. I was lucky enough to be in Canada in July and found that San Fran was a 2 hour flight so I hopped over to meet Pauline, who shares my views on transforming the legal profession to an almost uncanny degree. I’m planning Pauline’s trip to South Africa next year to provide training in Collaborative Divorce and neuro-literacy for lawyers as well as general training in Integrative Law.

I had a dream I could make some more friends who see the world like I do.

What happened: After reading every post I’ve ever written on this blog, Laly Mourenon from Monaco wrote me the most charming fan letter I’m ever likely to receive. Laly is a conscious lawyer wishing to spread the Integrative Law Movement across Europe. Laly and I are going on holiday together in December so that we can meet and talk about Integrative Law worldwide.  Laly is half French and half Italian, and our plans to spread Integrative Law across Europe might be the reason the Universe ensured I  chose to learn French and Italian despite growing up on the tip of Africa with no ancestors from either place.

Introducing Laly Mourenon – you’ll be hearing a lot more about her.

I had a dream I could go to Bali.

What happened: I’ve booked a flight and an antique Balinese “joglo” house for 5 weeks for the end of this year.  Laly will be with me for 10 days before I become more of a yogi hermit and retreat in this paradise in the ricefields.

I’m learning that dreams really can come true. And all that stuff about “if you can dream it you can do it” actually have substance. Focusing one’s intention is a very powerful thing. (I attach this link, it’s not the best description of the difference between wishing for something and setting an intention, but it’s a good start.)

I have become aware that my powers of manifestation have increased to a startling degree. It’s not exactly like The Secret, where a guy thinking about a Ferrari suddenly finds one in his living room, but enough that I am quite startled by what’s appearing and so are those close to me who are witnessing it.

I choose to use this power for good. In fact, I believe that it can only be used for good.  The Universe only helps out if it is for the highest purpose that something occurs.

When all these wondrous things started happening, it felt like everything was moving faster and faster and I did a little too much. I went to Tanzania for work in early September, where I conducted two simulated court cases:

Followed by a 4am start in Dar es Salaam and flight after flight until I arrived for a family wedding in France.  It was the most beautiful wedding in the world – although it did require 8 hour work days for a week to pull it off! I can now  add “international boules tournament organiser” to my CV.

This was followed immediately by delayed planes and 2 nights of little sleep in airport hotels (and bed bugs!) – which meant I actually missed Kim Wright’s arrival in Cape Town! But I made it in time to attend the 3 day Barrett conference in Cape Town, which was a glorious feast of ideas around raising individual, organisational and collective consciousness. Many tears were shared in open discussion as people were so profoundly moved. Kim and I presented on mindful or conscious contracts, a new movement in the way lawyers draft agreements.

Here I am with Gita Bellin, a pioneer in the field of behavioural transformation using her 50 years of study of Eastern and Western disciplines to assist people and organisations with  Conscious Evolution.

A few days after the Barrett conference, Kim and I planned and then hosted South Africa’s 1st Integrative Law Conference, which I will write about properly in a separate post. Below you can see lawyers Alan Nelson, Mervyn Malamed and in the background, Advocate Jacques Joubert and law student Byron Schwartz.

This was followed by a road show of meetings in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria with Kim.

Here’s Kim and me meeting Judge Jody Kollapen.

What an incredible adventure it has been. These events and meetings have been extraordinary. I am profoundly grateful at the enthusiastic response and support Kim and I received wherever we went and spoke about the Integrative Law Movement. However, I tried to fit too much into this short space of time and my health suffered so that by mid October I was flattened.  I’m working at a less frenetic pace now and trusting the Centre for Integrative Law will unfold as it should even if I don’t leap on and off planes and bang away at emails until late at night. And if this post is a little overdue, I’m not sweating the small stuff.

As I plan the next Integrative Lawyer workshop for 6 December I am aware that I cannot talk about balance or fulfilment or personal/professional alignment if I’m in poor health!  I must walk my talk. There is enough time for everything.

When I look at all this year has brought me, I am amazed and astounded at my privilege, when so many are living in abject poverty and despair. I work often with the 7 levels of consciousness and am becoming increasingly aware that to be able to focus one’s time on how to be of service to humanity is a gift beyond measure – when so many are struggling with daily survival.  I’m still figuring out what this all means for the way I shall choose to live my life going forward – and I wonder who will walk this journey with me as my life changes and my priorities change. But that’s a big topic!

Just for today, I shall hold immense gratitude for what has transpired thus far and keep my eyes open for what the Universe would like me to do next.

Strange Attractor Patterns, Chaos Theory and Change

Sometimes movement appears chaotic, such as the movement of clouds or the swirling motion of a liquid. Yet when these movements are plotted by scientists onto 2 or 3 dimensional graphs, it emerges that they are not random. Instead, they form into strange and beautiful shapes which show that there is a complex self organising structure underpinning the chaotic system.  These are known as “strange attractor patterns”.

As Margaret Wheatley, the systems thinking expert, explains in Leadership and the New Science, when one is trying to “fix” a system often this requires the existing system being broken or dismantled. The system then goes into a period of oscillation swinging backwards and forwards between different states.  The final state in a system’s movement away from order is chaos, although not all systems move into chaos. We tend to see chaos as a bad thing because it’s totally unpredictable, but high energy chaos or disorder actually contains the seeds of order. Just as we think the system has reached the point where everything should fall apart, the strange attractor comes into play and a new kind of order emerges from the chaos.

I am one of many people in the Integrative Law Movement who see the legal system as broken. This statement obviously requires detailed substantiation but for now I shall limit this to mentioning these already established factors:  The legal profession is badly regarded by clients, often fails to reach any of the goals it has set for itself (managing conflict) and is filled with disillusioned lawyers who had once hoped to make a difference in society. (for more information refer to Susan Daicoff’s explanation of the tripartite crisis in the profession). Although it’s not suggested that the entire legal system could or should be dismantled, there are parts of the system, or systems within systems, which require fundamental re-organisation.  For example, legal language for many centuries has remained virtually unchanged with the result that most people can’t understand the contracts by which they are bound, without legal assistance. Sentencing drug addicted offenders to prison is another system that has been dismantled in some parts of the world after years of research proves that such practices serve neither the offender, the victims of the crimes nor society at large.

 

Jurisprudence is founded on principles of maintaining the status quo, mitigating risk, quantifying the immeasurable, reducing uncertainty. All of this means lawyers operate poorly in disorder or chaos. But the world is shifting very fast and the legal system is being forced to change to keep pace. The legal profession will have to prepare itself to deal with chaos however uncomfortable this may be.  Old systems need to be abandoned in order to bring new ones into being. Changes may include embracing new technology; creating new billing systems; developing new ways to structure law firms; looking at alternative sentencing mechanisms for criminals (particularly youth and addicted offenders); pioneering approaches such as collaborative law divorce (removing court from the process) or teaching lawyers to be healers and peacemakers instead of soldiers armed for battle.

When collaborative law in divorce was introduced many thought that dismantling the current divorce regime was untenable and unsustainable and that clients would not want it. But today more than 25 000 lawyers across the world have been trained in and are practising collaborative law divorce and thousands more are seeking such training. It was originally thought that court brought order to the divorce process and that facilitating an adversarial divorce without the court structure in place would be chaotic but in fact the opposite proved true. Someone was bold enough to challenge the existing system.

It is time for change but in order to change, legal professionals will have to start examining their own deeply entrenched inclination not to change. What’s holding you back from change?